Keeping Rabindranath Tagore’s legacy alive

Pratima Chaudhuri10 Jun 2012

Pratima talks about Rabindranath Tagore’s influence in our lives through stories and songs, which have been relayed on celluloid. She talks about the importance of keeping the legacy alive and reinventing Tagore’s work to make it more relevant for today’s generation. Unfortunately, the efforts in this direction have been few and far between. For the movie lovers, Pratima also handpicked her most favorite Tagore Songs used in Bengali movies.

An average Bengali explores Rabindranath Tagore within the limits of intellectual chit-chat over cups of tea & innumerable fags. The perception created about the author is that of extreme intellectual rigour and a slow-paced music which can only help to enhance one's slumber! The one film-maker'who’s known to have experimented widely with his work is Satyajit Ray remaining true to the literature. A fellow Bong doesn’t know about “Nawshto-Neer” but does know about ‘Charulata’; such is cinema’s reach on an average Indian that the individual is taken by surprise if told that the classic ‘Madhumati’ is based on Tagore’s ‘Khudito Pashan’. It is nothing but the brand of Ray that could make this happen where as ‘Tarapada’ from Tapan Sinha’sAtithi’ based on another Tagore’s story gets lost a on a lad of 20, unless he’s a student of films of course.





The brighter side of the events reveal that at least the prose that were translated into audio-visual medium, be it cinema, short telefilms or even serials that are regularly telecast on television have a lasting impact on the minds of the people, considering that reading has becoming passé in the younger bracket of viewers.  Reading is more of a one-dimensional exercise to many where concentration is required to discern the underlying nuances of the story; on the other hand a movie has a multi-dimensional essence to it that has the capability of holding the audience’s attention relatively more. On that note be it Charulata or ‘Ghare-Baire’, another classic from Ray’s stable, has certain sequences etched in the viewer’s mind which the literature could not create.  For example, the classic shot of the protagonist moving from one window to the other looking outside through a pair of opera-glass creates a cult moment in the cinematic expression. When Sandip in Ghare-Baire returns Bimala’s hair-pin, probably more gets said in the cinematic medium than it could be through the prose. Rabindra-Sangeet used in these movies became forever associated with these flicks like the way “Ami chini go chini tomaare...” became an inherent part of Charulata even though Tagore had penned the song in a different context altogether.





In recent past, films such as ‘Chokher Bali’, ‘Nouka Dubi’ have been made based on Tagore’s stories, though how well they were made again is something debatable.  On a similar line, ‘Parineeta’ was made a few years back and it had become hugely popular; essentially the storyline was based on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel but the story was completely re-designed in order to give an urban flavour to it along with the delectable music by Shantanu Moitra. One funny anecdote: though it has been portrayed in history that Sarat Chandra and Tagore were archrivals but the movie actually has one of the famed Tagore compositions ‘Phule Phule dhole dhole..” in a re-designed format as “Piu bole Pia bole...”.  So coming back to the point, can one hope that may be with appropriate re-design of a story and translation into the audio-visual medium Tagore would gain more popularity and in turn would keep Tagore’s creation alive?





On a similar note, Rabindra-Sangeet has been sadly confined to only a select section of the population.  The original compositions are perceived as slow-paced and sluggish. Bengali cinema has used varied songs of Tagore, fitting it into the situation well. The songs “Tobu money rekho...” and “Purano shei diner kawthaa...” were perfectly in sync with the backdrop of ‘Agnishwar’ or “Shokhi Bhabona kahare bawle...” was well woven into the story-board of ‘Sreeman Prithviraj’. But these are only a handful of songs which the masses can relate to; unfortunately, people are judgmental without even going through his works; it is the perception that drives the opinion and perception cannot be changed overnight unless the works are showcased on a large scale. To make his work appeal to the masses, a way has to be devised.   A recent work in the television has experimented with re-design of Tagore songs, with guitar and other instruments and the show has become widely popular.  One needs to ponder whether the time has come to experiment with the set up of the compositions differently with the passage of time.  This is one chance to keep the man alive who got India her first Nobel Prize and the only prize in literature so far.






Tagore's songs are widely used in Bengali as well as Indian cinema. Here's a video playlist of the most popular Tagore songs in movies. Watch Top 50 Tagore Songs in Bengali movies (Rabindra Sangeet in movies)


Tags: Rabindranath TagoreOpinionFeature

Pratima Chaudhuri works in the Data Analytics Pratice of an MNC. An ardent follower of films, especially Hindi and Bengali films, she also works on film related literature. Apart from films, she is also regularly performs on stage. She has been part of a theatre production in Bangalore. Pratima also does freelancing on blogs and dabbles in content writing.

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Classic works are for ever. After 500 years of demise Shakespeare is being reinvented by many , so Tagore's works should also be brought into modern light and re-examined thoroughly. Because classics never cease to oblivion.
Posted by sudipta on  Jan 19 2014 12:24PM

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